Ahh, the first week of July! It’s marked with Canada Day, the 4th of July and the Tour de Delta. It’s also my favourite time for sports with the Tour de France, Wimbledon and the Open Championship. Not much gets done around my house for the next few weeks, let me tell you.
It’s a bit different this year, though. Hockey is on my mind as well. The last couple of weeks have seen different milestones at different ends of the game, with the draft being held in Vancouver, and Roberto Luongo announcing his retirement.
As a goalie coach, I’ve learned a lot about the position, how to play it (well, at least how to show someone else to play it) and how to analyze it. For all the criticism Luongo received when he was here, he’s an amazing goalie. I saw him during Canucks practices a couple of times – how hard he worked, how smooth he was and how he knew how to get in front of the puck, all skills that make for a great goalie.
Any Canucks fan laments the fact that we lost game 7 to Boston, and many blame Luongo. But a goalie is only as good as the team in from of him (or her). Defence plays a big role in the success of a goalie. Luongo was a gift we had, and let go. My #1 jersey remains, and always will.
Now that he’s retired (sadly, without a Stanley Cup ring), his contribution to hockey, along with a long list of other former players, shapes the future of the game. The players in the draft follow in the footsteps of these great athletes, and much can be learned from them.
I had the honour of coaching a summer goalie camp with Alex Auld, another great Canucks goalie. His knowledge was endless, but his stories were captivating. He told one story about playing for Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix. Gretzky’s dad spoke with the players and shared that when Wayne was a kid, he would take a piece of paper, draw a rink on it and follow the puck with a pen as he watched Hockey Night in Canada. At the end of the period, he looked for where there was overlap, blobs of ink or rips. That was where the puck tended to go. That’s why Gretzky was a step ahead – he knew where the puck would be, not where it had been.
I also had the great pleasure of hearing the late Pat Quinn speak. He told some great stories about his time as a player, coach and GM in the NHL. He spoke about how a team was a sauce, with all the ingredients having to work together. Even the best ingredients, in the wrong sauce, could ruin the outcome. I still talk about that one.
In our goalie camps, we talk a lot about what it takes to get to the next level, to make a team or become a professional. There is a lot to learn from those who have walked that path. In hockey, and in life, we all come up against struggles and need a little inspiration to get through it.
I hope Lu knows there’s always a place for him in Vancouver. I’m all ears.
Brad Sherwin, MBA is a long-time resident of South Delta, and has almost 30 years’ experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He teaches marketing at Douglas College, coaches hockey goalies and is president of the board of directors at Deltassist.